Category Archives: Retirees

News and Information for members of the retirement system who are enjoying their retirement

Update Regarding Retiree Earnings Limit

Normally, most NYSLRS retirees who return to work for a public employer face an earnings limit. Under Section 212 of the Retirement and Social Security Law, most NYSLRS retirees under age 65 who return to work for a public employer can earn up to $35,000 per calendar year without penalty. The limit includes all earnings for the calendar year, including money or retroactive payments earned in the calendar year but paid in a different calendar year. If a retiree exceeds the earnings limit and continues to work, their pension benefits are suspended for the remainder of the year.

However, executive orders and new legislation have temporarily suspended the earnings limit for retirees who returned to work.

retiree earnings limit

Earnings Limit Suspended through June 30, 2023 for School Districts and BOCES

The state budget for fiscal year 2022-2023 included legislation that temporarily suspends the earnings limit for retirees employed by school districts and Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES). Under this legislation, post-retirement earnings with a school district or BOCES will not count toward a retiree’s annual earnings limit through June 30, 2023.

The new law means that for retirees working for school districts or BOCES, the limit is eliminated through the end of the school year 2022-23. This extension does not apply to universities, colleges or charter schools.

Earnings Limit Suspended through October 27, 2022 for Other Public Employers

The Governor has issued an executive order temporarily suspending the retiree earnings limit. Under the executive order, post-retirement earnings with a public employer will not count toward a retiree’s annual earnings limit during the following time periods:

  • January 1, 2022 through October 27, 2022.
  • January 1, 2021 through June 24, 2021, and September 27, 2021 through December 31, 2021.
  • March 27, 2020 through December 31, 2020.

If the order is extended beyond October 27, 2022 we will update this blog post. For general information about post-retirement employment, please read What If I Work After Retirement.

Can I change my beneficiary?

Can You Change Your Beneficiary After You Retire?

Can you change your beneficiary after you retire? That depends. If it’s the beneficiary for your pension, in most cases the answer is no. If you choose a pension payment option that provides a lifetime benefit for a surviving beneficiary, you cannot change that beneficiary, even if they die before you do. If your retirement plan provides a one-time, lump sum death benefit after you retire, you can change your beneficiary (or beneficiaries) for that benefit.

Can you change your beneficiary?

Available Pension Payment Options

At retirement, you will choose from a variety of pension payment options. After your pension becomes payable, you have up to 30 days to change your option. After that, you cannot change your pension payment option for any reason.

  • If you don’t want to leave a lifetime benefit to someone else, the Single Life Allowance option may be right for you, but you won’t be able to change your option and add a beneficiary later. For example, if you’re single when you retire and marry during retirement, you cannot change your option to one that provides a continuing benefit for your spouse.
  • If you want to leave a lifetime benefit to someone, there are several Joint Allowance options you can choose. After your death, if your beneficiary survives you, they will continue to receive all or part of your pension (depending on the specific option you choose) for the rest of their life. For these options, you can only name one beneficiary, and you cannot change that beneficiary after the 30-day window.
  • There are payment options that allow you to change your beneficiary. For example, with the Five Year Certain or Ten Year Certain options, you can change your beneficiary at any time, but these options only provide a short-term benefit for a survivor.

The Post-Retirement Death Benefit

Your pension is not your only NYSLRS retirement benefit. Most NYSLRS retirees are eligible for a death benefit if they retired directly from payroll or within one year of leaving covered employment. This post-retirement death benefit is a one-time, lump-sum payment. You can change your beneficiary for this benefit at any time, and your beneficiaries for this benefit do not have to be the same as your pension payment option beneficiary.

Visit our Death Benefits page for retirees for information about how your post-retirement death benefit is calculated and how to update your beneficiaries if you are retired.

If you have questions about beneficiaries, death benefits or pension payment options, please contact us.

Reporting a Member’s or Retiree’s Death to NYSLRS

When a NYSLRS member or retiree dies, it is important that survivors report the death to NYSLRS as soon as possible.

How Survivors Can Report a Death

Survivors can find the report a death form on the NYSLRS website.

The form has two parts: The first section is for the person reporting the death to enter information about themselves. They should be sure to include a phone number in case we need to contact them. In the second part, they should enter information about the deceased member or retiree. If they know the deceased’s NYSLRS ID or the last four digits of their Social Security number, they should enter that too.

reporting a death

Survivors can upload a photocopy of the death certificate so NYSLRS can begin identifying any benefits that may be payable. (Note: we will still need an original death certificate before any benefits are paid – see below.) The form is transmitted over a secure network.

Survivors can also report a death by calling our toll-free number at 1-866-805-0990 (or 518-474-7736 in the Albany, New York area), weekdays from 7:30 am to 5:00 pm. Once they reach the call menu, they should press 3, then 1. The call will be transferred to a customer service representative, who will ask for:

  • The deceased’s NYSLRS ID, retirement or registration number or Social Security number.
  • The date of death.

We may also ask for the addresses and phone numbers of immediate family members who may be beneficiaries. Please note: Our customer service representatives cannot release the identities of a member’s or retiree’s beneficiaries over the phone.

Mailing a Death Certificate

Before any death benefits can be processed or paid, NYSLRS will need an original, certified death certificate, even if a photocopy has already been submitted. The death certificate (and the sender’s contact information) should be mailed to:

NYSLRS
Attn: Survivor Services
110 State St
Albany, NY 12244

We recommend that death certificates be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested.

What Happens Next

Once we receive the death certificate, we will send named beneficiaries or their certified representatives (guardians, powers of attorney, executors) information about death benefits and, if applicable, information about any continuing pension benefits and death benefits that may be payable based on the member or retiree’s tier and retirement plan. We will also send named beneficiaries the appropriate forms to complete.

It could take several months from the date we are notified of a death to the date that any death benefit is paid. This is the average time necessary to recover any pension payments made after the retiree’s death and calculate any death benefit that may be due, as well as receive a certified copy of the death certificate, tax withholding forms and notarized forms from the named beneficiaries. Our top priority is paying a continuing pension benefit as soon as possible.

If a member is retired when he or she dies, we will stop payment of any outgoing pension benefits. We will automatically reclaim any direct deposit payments that went out after a member’s death. Survivors should be aware that any uncashed pension checks in a deceased retiree’s name must be returned to us.

Talk to Your Loved Ones

If you’re a NYSLRS member or retiree, you should talk to your loved ones and provide them with the information they’ll need when the time comes. Let them know your wishes, where to find important papers and what steps they will need to take. And if your documents are organized and accessible, it will make things that much easier.

Our publication Getting Your Affairs in Order and A Guide for Survivors provides step-by-step guidance about what should be done now and after a member’s or retiree’s death.

Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) Coming in September

Eligible NYSLRS retirees will see a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) increase in their monthly pension payments beginning in late September 2022. This is a permanent annual increase to your retirement benefit that is based on the cost-of-living index and a formula set by State law.

For payment dates, check our pension payment calendar.

COLA coming soon

How the Cost-of-Living Adjustment is Determined

COLA increases are based on the rate of inflation, as reflected in the consumer price index published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The law requires that COLA payments be calculated based on 50 percent of the annual rate of inflation, measured at the end of the State fiscal year (March 31). The increase cannot be less than 1 percent or greater than 3 percent.

The COLA is applied to the first $18,000 of your benefit calculated as a Single Life Allowance, even if you selected a different pension payment option. Once your COLA payments begin, you will automatically receive an increase to your monthly benefit each September.

The September 2022 COLA equals 3 percent, for a maximum annual increase of $540.00, or $45.00 per month before taxes.

COLA eligibility

When Will You See the Increase?

Eligible retirees will see the first 2022 COLA in their end-of-September pension payment. It will be available to those with direct deposit on September 30, 2022. If you receive a paper check, it will be included in the check mailed on September 29, 2022.

You can sign in to your Retirement Online account to view a current breakdown of your pension payment. If you have direct deposit and are eligible for the increase, you will receive notification of the net change in your monthly payment amount in September.

If you are not eligible for a COLA yet, you will receive your first increase in the month after you become eligible. This payment will include a prorated amount to cover the month you became eligible. After that, you will receive a COLA increase each September.

Retroactive Payments and Your NYSLRS Pension

Retroactive payments are lump sum payments you receive from your employer. These payments can be from new union contracts, arbitration awards or legal settlements that took place while you were on your employer’s payroll.

If you receive a retroactive payment from your employer, it could affect your pension benefit calculation.

How Retroactive Payments Can Affect Your Benefit

Retroactive Payments

Your final average earnings (FAE) are a major factor in your pension benefit calculation. It’s the average of your three (five for Tier 6 members) highest consecutive years of earnings. For most people, their highest years of earnings come at the end of their careers.

Retroactive payments are applied to the pay periods when they were earned, not when they were paid. So, retroactive payments can increase your FAE, and therefore your pension benefit, as long as the time period in which you earned that money is part of the time period your FAE is based on.

However, please be aware that the law limits the FAE of all members who joined on or after June 17, 1971. For most members, if your earnings increase significantly through the years used in your FAE, some of those earnings may not be able to be used toward your pension. You can find information about earnings limitations by tier, including examples, on the Final Average Earnings page on our website. If your FAE has already been affected by these earnings limits, your retroactive payment will not increase your pension benefit.

Payments Received Before Retirement. If you receive a retroactive payment from your employer before you retire, your employer will report your earnings to us through their regular reporting process. You do not need to notify us of payments you receive.

Payments Received After Retirement (State Employees). If you retired from New York State and you receive a retroactive payment after you retire, we will recalculate your pension automatically. NYSLRS receives State payroll information automatically and you do not need to notify us. You will receive correspondence from us explaining any change in your pension benefit.

Payments Received After Retirement (Non-State Employees). If you retired from a non-State employer and you receive a retroactive payment after you retire, send a letter to our Recalculation Unit in the Benefit Calculations & Disbursement Services Bureau. Please include a copy of your check stub and any correspondence you received from your employer related to the payment. Mail it to:

NYSLRS
Attn: BCDS – Recalculation Unit
110 State Street
Albany, NY 12244-0001

You can also email and upload this information to the Retirement System through our secure contact form.

Your Pension Recalculation Will Be Completed

We continue to receive a record number of pension recalculations and are working diligently to address them. If you are currently waiting for your pension amount to be recalculated, please rest assured that we will get to it. Once we complete your recalculation, you will receive payment of all the money you are owed, and a letter explaining the change in your pension amount.

Recent PEF Retroactive Payments

If you were a Public Employees Federation (PEF) member before retiring from State service, you may have recently received a retroactive payment. The current PEF contract, covering employment from April 1, 2019 through March 31, 2021, was ratified last summer. If you were a PEF member, worked during these dates and have not received your retroactive payment, please check with your previous employer.

If you retired recently and your FAE included earnings from on or after April 1, 2019, your NYSLRS pension will be increased automatically. You do not need to notify us that you received a retroactive payment.

CSEA Contract Negotiations

If you were a member of the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) before you retired, your contract and any retroactive payment is currently being negotiated. Contact CSEA if you have questions.

When Retirees Rejoin NYSLRS

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted some NYSLRS retirees to return to work in the public sector. If you are one of these retirees, we want to make sure you know that the post-retirement earnings limit of $35,000 a year for retirees in a public sector job who are under age 65 has been suspended through much of 2020, 2021 and 2022 by executive order. Additionally, if you work for a school district or BOCES, legislation has suspended your earnings limit through June 30, 2023. Read more in our blog post, Update Regarding Retiree Earnings Limit During COVID-19 Emergency.

rejoin NYSLRS

Some retirees have considered ending their retirement to rejoin NYSLRS. While rejoining the Retirement System is an option, you should understand how this decision could affect your pension benefits.

Rejoining NYSLRS may increase your total service credit, allowing you to reach certain milestones that would increase your pension. An increase in earnings could also result in a higher pension. However, depending how long you work after rejoining, your new pension may not be higher than your original amount.

Note: This post applies to service retirees of the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) or the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) who are rejoining the same system. Different rules may apply to retirees of other retirement systems, retirees joining a system other than the one they retired from, and disability retirees.

What Happens to Your Pension When You Rejoin NYSLRS?

If you rejoin NYSLRS, your pension will be suspended. If you are in Tiers 2 through 6, and you earn less than two years of new service credit after you rejoin, your original pension would be reinstated when you retire the second time. Any new service credit and earnings would not affect your pension. (Tier 1 members would receive an additional benefit even if they earn less than two years of service in their new membership.)

If you earn two or more years of new service, you can either receive your original pension or you can receive a recalculated benefit that includes your additional service. If you choose the recalculated benefit, you would have to repay the entire pension amount you have already received, plus interest. (The pension amount you repay would be based on the Single Life Allowance rate.) You may repay that amount in a lump sum or by installments before you retire again — or request a permanent reduction to your new pension.

Other Factors

Here are other things to consider before you rejoin NYSLRS:

  • When you retire again, your new retirement date can delay your eligibility for cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs).
  • If you are in Tier 1 or 2, rejoining may affect your death benefit.

Where to Go for Help

If you are seriously considering rejoining NYSLRS, we strongly recommend you speak with a customer service representative to discuss how rejoining would affect your benefits. You can call them at 1-866-805-0990 or email them using our secure contact form.

You may also wish to read our publication Life Changes: What If I Work After Retirement?

Prepare Your Affairs and Survivors

After you’re gone, will your loved ones know how to handle your affairs? Will they know where to find your important documents, such as your will? Will they be able to make sense of your finances? Putting these affairs in order now can better prepare your survivors during an already difficult time.

prepare your affairs and survivors

Organize Your Documents

The first step to putting your affairs in order is collecting assorted records, certificates and other paperwork in a secure place. You’ll also want to write down names and phone numbers for any friends or business associates who could be helpful (like your attorney, accountant, insurance agent and the executor of your will).

To help your survivors find these important documents, fill out a Where My Assets Are (VO1848) form. Review this list and update it as needed.

Talk to Your Loved Ones

You may not feel comfortable discussing your death, but all your preparation won’t do any good if you keep your wishes a secret. Once you’ve collected your files and put together a list, let your potential survivors know where your documents are and provide them with copies of your asset list.

Discuss your finances with your loved ones, including your children, if any of the money matters involve them. Explain your NYSLRS benefits (such as your death benefits) and let them know how to report your death to NYSLRS. They can complete the NYSLRS Report a Death Form or call us at 866-805-0990. Death benefits cannot be paid until we have a certified death certificate.

Be sure to also discuss your funeral and burial preferences and let your family know about any arrangements you have already made.

Other Steps to Take When Organizing Your Affairs

You may have already taken care of some of these steps as part of your estate planning, but it never hurts to go back and check to make sure they still reflect your wishes.

  • Work with an attorney to prepare a will or trust.
  • Review your beneficiary information in Retirement Online and make sure we have the correct contact information for your beneficiaries.
  • Consider advance directives, such as a durable power of attorney, living will, health care proxy or do-not-resuscitate order. If you have minor children, you may wish to name a guardian for them. If you have a child with a disability, consult a professional who can help you navigate Medicaid and Medicare.
  • Keep your loved ones apprised of any changes to your situation that may affect them.

Read Getting Your Affairs in Order and A Guide for Survivors and share this publication with your potential survivors. The second half provides information for your survivors and explains what to do and who to contact if a loved one dies.

Federal Withholding and Your Pension

Getting hit every year with a larger than expected federal tax bill? Or maybe you received a hefty refund. Either way, it might be time to look at how much federal tax withholding is taken out of your NYSLRS pension. If you’re not sure whether you need to adjust your federal withholding, you can check with your tax preparer or you can use this Internal Revenue Service Withholding Calculator. Remember, this is only for federal income tax. New York State doesn’t tax your NYSLRS pension and we can’t withhold state income taxes.

Understanding Your Federal Withholding

You can adjust the amount we withhold from your retirement benefit at any time. Just follow these step-by-step instructions.

  1. Print our NYSLRS Form W-4P (Withholding Certificate for Pension or Annuity Payments) from our website. (This is a fillable form, so you can type in the information before you print it out.)
  2. Fill in the top of the form with your name, address, Social Security number and NYSLRS ID.
  3. Complete the form.
    • Complete Section 1 if you do not wish to have any federal income tax withheld.
    • Complete Section 2 to have NYSLRS withhold based on current Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax tables, your marital status and the number of federal allowances (exemptions) you claim. You can use our tax withholding calculator to estimate how much would be withheld from your pension payment every month.
    • Complete Section 3 if you completed Section 2 and also want an additional amount withheld.
  4. If you completed the form by typing in your information, print the form.
  5. Date and sign the form.
  6. Mail your form to:
    NYSLRS
    110 State Street
    Albany, NY 12244-0001

You can sign in to Retirement Online to view your current federal withholding information, including your withholding status, number of exemptions and any additional tax being withheld. You’ll also find your NYSLRS ID on your Retirement Online account page. Visit our Taxes and Your Pension page for more information.

A Short To-Do List for After You Retire

There are a few things you should do regarding your NYSLRS benefits after you retire. This way, wherever your retirement takes you, we can continue to provide you with the benefits and services available to our retirees.

A Short To-Do List for After You Retire

Sign Up for Retirement Online

If you don’t already have a Retirement Online account, this is a great time to sign up. Retirement Online provides a secure and convenient way to check important NYSLRS information, like the deductions from your latest payment and a summary of your benefits. You can also view or update beneficiary information and generate pension income verification letters right from your computer. We’ll be adding additional online features for retirees in the near future, so stay tuned.

Have New Contact Information? Let Us Know

If you move after you retire, let NYSLRS know your new address so you can be sure to get important communications about your benefits.

The Post Office usually won’t forward pension checks to another address. If you haven’t already, you can sign up for our direct deposit program. It’s the safe, hassle-free way to receive your monthly benefit. But there are other things you’ll want to receive from us after you retire, such as:

  • Your 1099-R form. Your pension isn’t taxed by New York State, but it is subject to federal income tax.
  • Your Retiree Annual Statement. It’s a helpful reference that spells out the benefits, credits and deductions you receive each year.
  • Any official notifications such as a net change in your benefits.
  • Your Retiree Notes newsletter.

There are several ways to update your address. The fastest way is through Retirement Online. Or, you can complete our secure contact form for street addresses within the United States. Be sure to fill out the entire contact form and provide both your old and new addresses.

You can also complete a Change of Address Form (RS5512) and mail it to:

NYSLRS
110 State Street
Albany, NY 12244-0001

You should also make sure we have your current email address. Having an email address on file means we can contact you quickly if we need to notify you about an update to your NYSLRS benefits. If you haven’t updated your email address with NYSLRS, update it in Retirement Online, send it to us using the secure email form or send it to us with your Change of Address Form (RS5512).

Keep Your Beneficiary Information Current

Reviewing your beneficiary designations periodically is important. By keeping them up to date, you ensure that any post-retirement death benefit will be distributed to your loved ones according to your wishes. You can use Retirement Online to change your death benefit beneficiaries at any time, or contact our Call Center and we will send you the necessary form.

Read Our Guide for Retirees

Check out our publication, Life Changes: A Guide for Retirees (VO1705), for information about other benefits you may be entitled to and the services we offer after you retire.

Taxes After Retirement

Estimating your post-retirement expenses is crucial to effective retirement planning, and it’s important to remember that taxes are also part of that equation. Most retirees pay less in taxes than when they were working, partly because their incomes are lower. But there are other reasons why your tax burden may be lighter after you stop working.

taxes after retirement

New York State Taxes

As a NYSLRS retiree, your pension will not be subject to New York State or local income tax. New York doesn’t tax Social Security benefits, either.

You may also get a tax break on any distributions from retirement savings, such as deferred compensation, and benefits from a private-sector pension. Find out more on the Department of Taxation and Finance website.

Be aware that you could lose these tax breaks if you move out of New York. Many states tax pensions, and some tax Social Security. For information on tax laws in other states, visit the website of the Retired Public Employees Association.

Federal Taxes

Unfortunately, most of your retirement income will be subject to federal taxes, but there are some bright spots here.

Your Social Security benefits are likely to be taxed, but at most, you’ll only pay taxes on a portion of your benefits. You can find information about it on the Social Security Administration website. (If you’re already retired, use the Social Security Benefits Worksheet in the Form 1040 instructions to see if any of your benefits are taxable.)

Throughout your working years, you’ve paid payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare. For most workers, that’s 6.2 percent (Social Security) and 1.45 percent (Medicare) of your gross earnings out of every paycheck. But Social Security and Medicare taxes are only withheld from earned income, such as wages. Pensions, Social Security benefits and retirement savings distributions are exempt from Social Security taxes. Of course, if you get a paying job after retirement, Social Security and Medicare taxes will be deducted from your paycheck.

Once you turn 65, you may be able to claim a larger standard deduction on your federal tax return.

To better understand how your retirement income will be taxed, it may be helpful to speak with a tax adviser.